Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Interview with E-Learning Professional: John Erdner, Nfomedia

Today's interview is with John Erdner, founder of an innovative learning management system and philosophy: Nfomedia (, which brings together social networks and e-learning. Nfomedia is remarkable for its short learning curve, simple to use technologies, and Web 2.0 integrations.

What is your name and what is your involvement in e-learning?

My name is John Erdner. I am founder and CEO of Nfomedia Inc. The company originated in Stillwater, OK (2005) and is now based in Austin, TX. My educational background and work experience is software development/engineering management. Most of my colleagues, friends, and family are professionals (faculty/administrators) in the education industry.

What is Nfomedia, and what is its vision?

Nfomedia is a social e-learning platform which uses the latest Web technologies. Most of the features are familiar to our users from other social networking sites like Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn. The familiarity is especially true for students and growing for instructors. Nfomedia offers the standard social networking features which includes user profiles, friends, discussion boards, text messaging, wiki editing. These features are put into a learning environment by grouping them in private areas called course sites. All course sites also include grade book, announcements, exams, student journals, and content editing.

What do you like best about Nfomedia? What are some of its advantages?

The simple user interface and short learning curve for faculty and students. Faculty with limited Web experience can deploy a secure course website in a matter of minutes.

In what ways has e-learning changed the way that students and instructors interact with each other and the course material?

We’ve found course blogs to be very popular. Students are sometimes more willing to communicate ideas in an online format which leads to great discussions that may not occur inside a traditional classroom. Additionally, I've been told by faculty that online participation (course blogs, message boards, chat rooms, etc.) greatly helps to develop/improve critical thinking and writing skills.

What do you think will be then next big breakthrough in distance learning?

Nfomedia is planning to have discussions/questions on content pages. This should make it easier for students to ask questions while studying online content/material (no need to jump to another area on the website, like a discussion). The instructor will be notified when a new comment is posted. Also students/instructors will be able to sort by ‘most discussed areas’. Over time content should improve because the instructor can easily pin point areas that receive the most questions/comments. These discussions can be cleared at the end of a semester.

Also, I expect to see webcams integrated more into the learning environment. For example the instructor might give live lectures and use a chat window for real-time questions. Similarly, a student with a webcam could connect via their webcam in ‘picture in picture’ mode to ask a question. These sessions could be recorded and replayed by students. Another possibility is a video blog where student can post presentations using webcams.

Have you recently read a book that has made you think in a new way? What was it?

One of my goals is to read more books on e-learning. I spend most of my free time keeping up with emerging Web technologies by reading blogs. I'm always looking for new ways to use these technologies in an online learning environment. The groundwork for Nfomedia has been created (i.e. we have an excellent development toolset). Therefore we are able to add new features very quickly.

Optional question: If you were a political strategist, how would you harness the power of Web 2.0 applications?

Certainly the 2008 presidential campaigns have used Web technologies effectively for presenting political viewpoints and fund raising like never before. However outside of an election, using these technologies in politics is a challenging question.

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